Primary Sources at CSB and SJU

What Are Primary Sources?

Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented.

Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later.

Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format. --from "Primary Sources at Yale."

Sample Primary Sources

Finding Primary Sources Online

Archives, museums, and government offices frequently digitize their primary source collections and make them available online. Type your usual search terms into a search engine and then add one of the options (include the quotation marks) below.

  • "oral history"
  • "digital library"
  • "primary sources"

Finding Primary Sources in the Libraries' Catalog

Use the Libraries' catalog/main search box to find primary sources. Just type in your usual search terms and then add one of the terms listed below.

  • sources
  • diaries
  • correspondence
  • personal narratives
  • pictorial works
  • interviews
  • description and travel
  • autobiography
  • memoirs


Associate Director for Learning and Research